Wednesday, January 27, 2016

The Acts 4 Church

by Dan Jones

Offended?

It’s not unusual to hear people talk about “the Acts 2 church.” 

Usually, it’s a reference to a rapidly-growing church that’s part of a “movement” with a membership absolutely on fire with the Holy Spirit.

In today’s terminology, it could be said that an Acts 2 church is a church in the process of going viral.

That’s a good thing and I’m all for that.

And, just to give ourselves a nice, clear setting in context, let’s take a closer look at Acts 2:

The book of Acts opens with Jesus ascending into heaven and telling the disciples to stay in Jerusalem until they are baptized with the Holy Spirit. There were also some house-keeping duties in finding another apostle to replace Judas.

Then, in Acts 2, the Holy Spirit arrives like a mighty rushing wind. Tongues of fire appear over the heads of the disciples, a huge crowd gathers outside, and the disciples began praising God in all kinds of languages—which are understandable to the travelers from far and wide.

The crowd is astounded. Some think the disciples are drunk.

And then Peter stands up, proclaims Jesus as the Messiah, and preaches an inspired sermon:

Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah.” When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.” With many other words he warned them; and he pleaded with them, “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.” Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day. (Acts 2: 36-41)

It’s a dramatic scene and I would have loved to have been there in person and seen it.  It’s no wonder people would want to be a part of a church like that.  

Can you imagine adding 3,000 people to a church in one day?

Amazing.

But, as I read on beyond Acts 2, something caught my eye.

In Acts 3, Peter and John are walking through the temple and Peter heals a man who had been lame for a long, long time.

This draws a crowd, and Peter launches into yet another impassioned sermon, again accusing those present of being responsible for Jesus’ death.

You killed the author of life, but God raised him from the dead. We are witnesses of this. (Acts 3:15 NIV)

In Acts 4, we find that this draws the attention of all kinds of officials from the temple, who throw Peter and John in jail overnight, and then haul them before the very people who had actually plotted and carried out the murder of Jesus. 

Oh, and now the brand-new church grows to 5,000.

The rulers of the temple want to know by what power or authority did they do this, and :

Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, “Rulers of the people and elders, if we are being examined today concerning a good deed done to a crippled man, by what means this man has been healed, let it be known to all of you and to all the people of Israel that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead—by him this man is standing before you well. This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone. And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved. (Acts 4: 8-12 NIV)

Now, I checked these verses in 24 different translations of the Bible and I only found two exclamation points among the lot of them.  After doing a little research, I found that the original Greek of the New Testament did not use exclamation points.

So,  it’s understandable that our Bibles don’t contain a lot of dramatic punctuation, but I have a very, very strong suspicion that when Peter actually spoke these words there were quite a few exclamation points along with some underlining, bold face type, and possibly even some all caps.

I would not even be surprised if Peter (known to be a bit impulsive) included a few gestures.

After this the temple big-shots tell Peter and John not to speak or teach in the name of Jesus at all anymore.  Then:

But Peter and John replied, “Which is right in God’s eyes: to listen to you, or to him? You be the judges! As for us, we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard. (Acts 4:19-20)

There’s an exclamation point!

The rulers of the temple threatened them after that, but Peter and John went back to their fellow believers and reported all that had happened. 

They responded by praising God and praying:

“Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness. Stretch out your hand to heal and perform signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus.” (Acts 4: 19-20 NIV)

So, what I take away from all of this is that in every instance where Peter preached here, he came straight out and accused those listening of killing Jesus. No soft-sell. No toning it down. No being “tolerant” or “inclusive.” 
He was not soft-spoken and he most certainly was not concerned about the possibility of offending someone.
“You killed Jesus.”
That’s pretty offensive.
But, here’s the deal:
Peter was just as guilty as the people he was talking to. He had denied Jesus three times. After having pledged that he would die before letting Jesus be killed, he had failed.
But he had been restored. He had been forgiven.
And, he had been filled with the fire of the Holy Spirit.
So, while I understand the desire of those who are looking for an Acts 2 church, and I long to be filled with the fire of the Holy Spirit and the breath of that mighty rushing wind, Lord, grant that I could speak the gospel with the boldness of the Acts 4 church.
Amen
Today’s Praise
After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly. (Acts 4:31 NIV)



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